Overqualified? Underqualified? What’s the Best Resume for You?

Whether you find yourself overqualified or under-qualified for a position you want to apply for, the best way to approach your resume is to focus on how your unique knowledge/skills/expertise can help the potential employer. Dovetail your background with the position responsibilities to fit the company’s needs.

Make Certain Your Experience Shines

Close review of the job requirements and responsibilities will help you determine what part of your background to bring into focus.

Overqualified? Don’t Lie

  • For example, if you try to hide decades of professional experience by excluding it so you don’t seem overqualified, the truth will always come out in the end. Eileen Wolkstein, Director of Continuing Education at NYU’s School of Social Work writes: “Don’t lie. Do recognize that the employer is worried that if she hires an overqualified person, that person will leave for a better job as soon as possible. Job seekers have to address this concern head on. Consider making an 18-month commitment. Explain that you will deliver a higher level of productivity than someone more junior, and promise to stick around.”
  • Salary can be a consideration as well. Sometimes a company may think you are “overqualified for the position” simply because your salary is well over their anticipated range. You can counter this by letting them know your main goal is to obtain a challenging opportunity, that will build into a rewarding career. So, at this point, salary is not a primary consideration.

Editors Note: Countless studies have shown that professionally-written resumes get more interviews. Compare Resume Writing and Resume Editing to see which of our services is right for you.

Underqualified? Showcase Your Academic or Professional Training

  • Everyone has heard that in order to get a job you have to have experience, but if you don’t have that experience, the big question is what to do to show value to an employer. Digging deep into your academic background can be a big help by listing completed coursework related to your degree and career choice, if it’s more relevant to your targeted job than your past experience.
  • Highlighting projects you have helped develop can be of great help as well. For example, perhaps you were a team leader over a specific project in college. Detail your responsibilities and how you made an impact. An article at points out: “What you lack in experience with other employers, you can make up for in on-the-job training, growing into the role over time. If you have a lot of prior experience, point out the ways that you will be able to leverage your accumulated skills and abilities in the new role, improving the organization as a whole in the process.”

Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., Creative Director and Associate Publisher of Quintessential Careers maps out 10 strategies to overcome lack of qualifications:

  • Exploit your transferable skills.
  • Consider playing up school and other unpaid experience.
  • Consider a reverse chrono-functional resume (a combination resume).
  • Don’t apply for jobs for which you’re grossly underqualified, but do remember that job postings and employment ads are often employer wish lists.
  • Consider a two-column or “t-style” cover letter.
  • Indicate your flexibility and willingness to learn or gain additional training.
  • Try the “bait and switch.” (That doesn’t mean you should lie, it means you use strategy [stating that you’d also like to be considered for a lower-level position than the one applied for] to get your foot in the door).
  • Find out more about the employer’s needs.
  • Consider a career portfolio with work samples.
  • Consider volunteering to work on an unpaid trial basis.

No one’s 100% perfect for any position. We all have shortcomings. Being overqualified or under-qualified comes with the territory. Making yourself appear to be uniquely qualified for the job is what to strive for.

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